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FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The Colorado State women's basketball team rallied from a 10-point deficit with 6:43 to go in the fourth quarter to force overtime and defeat the Saint Mary's Gaels, 80-68, on Thursday night in the first round of the Women's National Invitation Tournament at Moby Arena.
Once trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Colorado State (25-8) whittled the lead down to seven with 2:56 to play. The Rams went on a 7-1 run from that point, cutting the Gaels' (20-13) lead to 61-60 on a pair of Ellen Nystrom jumpers and a three-point play by Elin Gustavsson. The Gaels converted on only 1-of-4 free throws in the final two minutes, leaving the door open for the Rams with 14 seconds to play. In the final seconds of regulation, Gustavsson drove inside, drew a foul and knocked down both free throws to send the game to overtime tied at 62 apiece.
Once in overtime, the Rams seized control of the game, as Nystrom, Sofie Tryggedsson, Myanne Hamm and Gustavsson combined to open the overtime period with 5-of-6 shooting. Behind their hot shooting, the Rams took a 73-66 advantage with less than two minutes to go. The Gaels missed a pair of layups on their next possession, and were forced to foul. Hamm and Gustavsson combined to go 4-for-4 from the free throw line down the stretch, and Stine Austgulen buried a dagger three in the final minute to seal the 80-68 win.
Notably, the Rams built an advantage from the free throw line with 9-of-14 shooting compared to 4-of-11 for Saint Mary's. Gustavsson finished with 28 points on 8-of-13 shooting (2-of-4 three-point shooting) and 10-of-11 shooting from the free throw line. The Angelholm, Sweden native added seven rebounds and four assists. Tryggedsson tallied 18 points, while Nystrom scored 12 points with four rebounds and as many assists.
The Rams fell behind, 24-13, after the first quarter, but held Saint Mary's without a point until the 2:43 mark in the second quarter to narrow the gap. The Gaels' Stella Beck used a layup to stop CSU's 9-0 run, but Gustavsson and Austgulen answered with a jumper and a three-pointer, respectively, to give the Rams a 27-26 lead. Saint Mary's responded with one more shot to end the half, as Devon Brookshire converted on a layup to send the Gaels to the break with a 28-27 advantage. The Gaels outscored the Rams, 19-14, in the third quarter to take a 47-41 lead heading to the dramatic fourth.
STAT OF THE GAME
Colorado State's win on Thursday marked the program's first postseason win since 2003. The Rams won three WNIT games in 2003, advancing to the semifinals of the tournament with a 62-61 win over Missouri.
IN THEIR WORDS
Colorado State head coach Ryun Williams
"You saw the latter two or three minutes of the fourth quarter and then overtime that this building and these fans are the reason why we won this basketball game. We were scrapping and clawing and trying to find something to give us a little more energy, a little more boost, and our fans were just outstanding. I like the winning plays we made late in the fourth quarter and the overtime. We just finally gained some traction offensively to beat a really good Saint Mary's team. That size and their physicality that they put out there is really hard for us to defend. I thought we battled all night long. I'm glad we won the way we did. That's the way we've done it all year long. If somebody gives us a crack, we're going to get through it."
On the team's effort:
"These kids for four years have shown up every single night. We know we're going to get effort. We know we're going to get a good attitude, a winning attitude every single night. Now it's can we make enough plays. The last month and half, this is how our games have been. You should come to the gym knowing this is how it's going to be, folks. I'm proud of the want, the determination to keep fighting. These kids showed incredible determination. (Saint Mary's had) a nine- or 10-point lead and it didn't look good. That's when these kids seem to be at their best. It seems to be when we make our best plays. As a coach you have to be proud of that."
On the sequence of events that ended regulation:
"It was that type of game. We would have loved the one free throw for the one-point lead, but that showed some guts right there to step up and make the two. Then we had to make a defensive stop with nine seconds to go. That's who we are; we are a gutty, defensive team so it was nice to end the game and go into overtime with making some tough plays."
Sophomore guard Sofie Tryggedsson
On the importance of her four-point play with 6:15 to go in the fourth and the Rams trailing by 10:
"It was important. We had a lot of good shots today, and that play was very important for us to get it going and just get some confidence in there and just believe in it."
Senior forward Elin Gustavsson
On getting to play another game with her teammates:
"It means a lot. The loss to Boise State really made me realize that this is it. I love playing basketball, and I love playing with my team, so if I get another chance to play with them then I'll take it. I don't even have to think about it. We're having so much fun right now. We know that we wanted to go to the (NCAA Tournament), but we need to accept reality and then just go all in and go 100 percent and we're excited."
On the potential pressure to get a postseason win:
"I want to win every game; it doesn't matter who we play, where we are, what tournament, so I was just excited to play with this team again. Ellen and I have always said that every year has been different; different teams, different players. Of course I thought about that we'd never won a postseason game before. I don't know about pressure, just excitement."
- Colorado State earns its 25th win of the season, tying for the fourth-most wins in a single season in program history. The Rams have won at least 23 games in each of the past four seasons (including 2016-17).
- CSU's 2016-17 win percentage improves to .758 (25-8), currently ranking as the seventh-best single-season win percentage in program history.
- The Rams are now 7-5 all-time in the Postseason WNIT.
- The Rams are now 16-1 at home this season, tying for the Rams' third-most home wins in a single season (1999-00). CSU had won 17 home games previously in 1998-99 and 2002-03.
- Elin Gustavsson made her 129th career start, joining teammate Ellen Nystrom (130) atop the Mountain West record books for most career starts. The previous record was held by each of Kim Smith and Shona Thorburn, who each started 128 games for Utah from 2002-06.
- With four rebounds on Thursday night, Nystrom has 270 rebounds this season. Nystrom passes Katie Cronin (259 in 1998-99) for the fifth-most in a single-season in program history.
- With eight made field goals against the Gaels, Gustavsson now has the 10th-most made field goals in a single season in program history. Gustavsson has 195 for the season, passing Teresa James' 194 in 1995-96.
- The Rams are now 3-0 all-time against Saint Mary's, and 2-0 against the Gaels all-time at home.
The Colorado State women's basketball team will host the winner of Friday night's WNIT game between Utah and UC Davis. The Rams will face either of those two teams at Moby Arena on Sunday at 2 p.m. MT.
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